WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 23 points and No. 4 Duke held on to beat Wake Forest 79-71 on Tuesday night for its seventh straight win.
Kelly put up 20 points against the Demon Deacons for the third straight time, and Seth Curry finished with 15 points for the Blue Devils (26-4, 13-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Duke led by 23 points with 9½ minutes left before Wake Forest made things tense late.
Nikita Mescheriakov and Tony Chennault both had 18 points for the Demon Deacons (13-16, 4-11). Their best chance came when they had the ball down 72-66 with less than 2 minutes left.
But after Chennault missed a 3-pointer, Duke milked the shot clock and Miles Plumlee chased down the critical offensive rebound of Tyler Thornton's missed jumper with just over 1 minute left. Curry hit two free throws with 48.9 seconds left to make it 74-66.
Wake Forest had one last chance, trailing 74-68 after Curry missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 35.8 seconds left, but Chennault missed another 3 and Kelly added two free throws with 25.8 seconds to play.
That helped the Blue Devils become the third team in school history — and first since 1999-2000 — to finish 8-0 in ACC road games and remained on a roll entering Saturday night's visit from No. 6 North Carolina.
Their fifth straight win in the series wasn't as easy as it appeared it might be early; they won the previous four matchups by an average of 18 points.
Kelly, a 6-foot-11 Raleigh native, has been a particularly tough matchup for the Demon Deacons ever since he established himself in Duke's rotation as a sophomore last season. His previous career-high of 21 points came in a 91-73 win against them last month at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and his 3-pointer with 11½ minutes left put Duke up 63-40.
Mason Plumlee had 12 points, Austin Rivers added 10 and Miles Plumlee finished with 11 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who shot 45 percent and hit 10 3-pointers before letting the Demon Deacons back into the game.
Travis McKie scored 14 points, C.J. Harris had 11 and Carson Desrosiers finished with 10 for Wake Forest, which trailed 65-42 with under 10 minutes to play but used a 19-2 run to make it a game again. McKie's jumper from the key with just under 5 minutes left made it 67-61.